Currently | Reading and Recovering

by Kim on January 25, 2015 · 14 comments

currently january 25 2015

Briefly | I spent almost all of this week in the middle of a gross winter cold, but didn’t admit that I needed rest and quiet until I basically fell apart on Thursday evening. After a couple of good nights of sleep (thanks, cold medicine) I’m finally on the upswing, but it’s been a rough week.

Time and Place | About 8:45 a.m. on my couch, snuggled up with a cat and a blanket

Reading | Because of the cold, I had a quieter reading week. I finally finished up Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation by Judith Mackrell (so great!). Then yesterday afternoon I sat down and flew through The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi Durrow (really beautiful and interesting) and finished up Gretchen Rubin’s upcoming book on habits, Better Than Before (March 17 from Crown — I read it as a egalley). I was not impressed with this particular book, but I’m still sorting out exactly why — Kelly Jensen’s review on Goodreads gets at some of my issues.

I just started reading The Lonely War by Nazila Fathi, a memoir/reported look at the challenges of modern Iran. I’m only about 50 pages in but I have high hopes — her introduction provided the most succinct and clear summary of the Iranian Revolution and the fall out that I’ve ever read (and I’ve read a bunch of books on Iran).

Watching | The boyfriend and I started watching Larry Wilmore’s new show The Nightly Show this week and we both really like it! I think the format (a desk segment, followed by a panel discussion) is going to work, and I’m glad that he’s been taking on big topics right away.

Blogging | Because of my sick brain, I only got up one review this week, a look at The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport (spoiler, I really liked it). I’m super behind on comments, but the plan is get caught up this morning.

Reminiscing | This Vox piece on Mathnet took me straight back to my childhood. I remember watching Square One with my mom in the first house our family lived in.

Loving | Everyone at work is in a cleaning and organizing mood, which inspired me to get rid of a bunch of old notebooks I’d been hiding in a riling cabinet — goodbye city, school and county board notes from early 2012…

Avoiding | I need to go to the grocery store today… but I don’t want to leave my house. I’m hoping we can scavenge until tomorrow.

Anticipating | This week is the Minnesota Newspaper Association annual conference, which is usually a fun couple of days away from work. Since it’s in the Twin Cities, I usually get to couple going to the convention with a trip home to see my family before I hunker down for the month of February.

Happy Sunday, everyone! What are you reading today?

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the romanov sisters by helen rappaportIn 1895, Tsar Nicholas Romanov II and his wife, Tsarita Alexandra, welcomed their first child into the world. Although the Tsar and Tsarita were thrilled with their daughter, Olga, much of the Russian populace was concerned because, of course, the dynasty needed a son. When the Tsarita gave birth to three more daughters — Tatiana in 1897, Maria in 1899 and Anastasia in 1901 — public gossip about her standing as Empress began to swirl.

In private, though, the Tsar and Tsarita were dedicated and loyal to their family, shutting their girls away from much of Russian life to create a private, loving sphere for them to grow up in. The eventual birth of a Russian heir, Tsarevich Alexi Nikolaevich, in 1904 shifted the sister’s out of the public sphere even more. In The Romanov Sisters, historian Helen Rappaport focuses in on the domestic life of the Romanov family to capture the joys and challenges of these young women during the final years of Imperial Russia.

I think what struck me most about this book, an impulse grab from my local library, is that The Romanov Sisters is a very personal book. Rappaport spends most of her time focusing on the Romanov family at home — Alexandra’s parenting style, Nicholas’ love of the outdoors, and the passions and personalities of the Romanov daughters. Although the girls were often separated into pairs — Olga and Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia — they each had distinct personalities and contributions to the family and, had they lived, I imagine Russian society as a whole.

Focusing on the family at home also provided an opportunity for Rappaport to make some specific arguments about how the domestic life of the Romanov family contributed to the civil unrest in Russia that eventually led to the Russian Revolution (and the family’s execution). In particular, Alexandra’s ill health and the turmoil of Alexi’s illness (hemophilia), forced the family to spend much of their time close to home and behind closed doors, exacerbating the distance between the people and the royal family.

Even something as seemingly innocuous as choosing to work as nurses during the war had unintended consequences for the sisters. Alexandra thought that showing the family in ostentatious dress was distasteful during the war, when so many others were going with out. And she and the girls threw themselves into working at various hospitals in and around their home. But Rappaport notes this may have been a miscalculation — many Russians, especially peasants, still saw the royals as almost divine beings and expected their public image to reflect that.

Since I am a reader who tends to get bogged down in historical politics and timelines (and, relevant to this book, Russian names) this domestic framing for the story worked well for me. I loved the way Rappaport made each of the girls stand out and gave a sense of the potential that was cut short when they were murdered. But if you are a reader looking for a more broad historical narrative, I’m sure there are better options to pick up.

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Currently | Getting on a Reading Streak

January 18, 2015 Currently

Time and Place | About 8:45 a.m. on my couch Reading | I’ve been on an awesome little streak of reading books about famous and almost famous women. It started with Helen Rappaport’s The Romanov Sisters, a look at the Romanov family focusing primarily on Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia. That was followed by Megan Mayhew Bergman’s new short […]

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Morning Meanderings with Sheila from Book Journey

January 16, 2015 Musings

Happy Friday, friends! Today I am over a Book Journey, helping blog sit while my blogging friend Sheila is off on a cruise in Australia. Yep, I am as jealous as you are — I’m sure it is a lot warmer where she is! So, head over there to chat about how Sheila and I […]

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Reviewletts: ‘Sweetland’ and ‘Descent’

January 14, 2015 Book Review

One of the things I try to do when I write mini-reviews is find a way to tie the two books together. I don’t think this is necessary, but I think it’s a good challenge. It took me awhile, but I realized yesterday what the two books I’m going to write about today have in common: […]

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How I’m Reforming My 168 Hours

January 8, 2015 Book Review

One of the things that started to bug me in 2014 was my contribution to the “cult of busy” or “the busy trap” – the way people have of lamenting how busy they are in such a way that it becomes a kind of humblebrag, a complaint disguised as a boast to show how important […]

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Nurture | One Little Word 2015

January 6, 2015 Personal

One year later, and I think what I said about the idea of One Little Word still rings true: Anyone who is a bookworm knows that words have power. Words matter and the words we choose in our lives can make such a difference in how we see the world. This is my second year […]

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Currently | New Year, New Computer

January 4, 2015 Currently

Briefly | Cheers and Happy New year! It feels like forever since I sat down and wrote a Sunday morning post — lots to catch up on. Time and Place | About 8:30 a.m. on my couch with my new Asus Chromebook, one of my Christmas presents. My old laptop was on it’s last legs and a […]

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The 2015 TBR Challenge and Other Bookish Goals

January 1, 2015 Book List

Happy first day of 2015, friends and fellow readers! Over the last few years as a book blogger, I’ve realized that I am not very good at keeping book-related goals. I start the year with great intentions, but inevitably fall to the siren song of reading whatever the heck I want. I’m sure you’ve all […]

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A Look at 2014 in Bookish Stats

December 30, 2014 Monthly Review

I started book blogging in 2008. At the end of the year, I fell in love with posts where bloggers would break down their year in reading. Beginning in 2010, I started to keep detailed statistics about each book I read so I could look back on my year in reading that way too. I […]

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